Bare Theatre deserves credit for perseverance, staging 18 Shakespeare plays in nine seasons. The productions emphasize energetic presentation of text and characterizations over elaborate production. “Cymbeline” proves one of the company’s most satisfying shows.
A late play, “Cymbeline” follows the fashion in 1611 towards theatrical sensation, surprise and sensuality. The dialog is less poetic than earlier Shakespeare; its plot is maintained more through action than character.
The tale of Cymbeline, King of Britain during Roman domination, centers on his daughter Imogen, secretly married to courtier Posthumus, whom the king banishes after discovering the union. The complicated aftermath includes typical Shakespearean devices of a woman disguised as a boy, a potion that fakes death, mistaken identities through switched clothing and lovers thinking each other unfaithful. The play culminates in a great battle and one of the most complex revelation scenes in all Shakespeare.
The production is staged in an unheated, aging warehouse, with three floodlights, white cloth backdrops and actors in jeans and tank tops. Minimal props and accessories allow quick changes and occasional sly humor, mixing modern and historical periods.
Director Laura Bess Jernigan gets confident, precise performances from her nine players, the roles cleverly double- and triple-cast, with women playing many male roles convincingly. She encourages vivid portrayals that balance action, humor and emotions in this engaging romantic saga.
Sheryl Marsha Scott’s Imogen is brave, loving and wise, her delivery honest and moving. Justin Brent Johnson’s Posthumus goes from misplaced revenge to guilt and sacrifice with increasing depth and stature. As the evil Iachimo, Rebecca Blum makes his attempted seduction of Imogen a production highlight. Maegan Mercer-Bourne gives Pisanio hero status as a servant determined to do the right thing.
Allan Maule takes the king’s cloddish son Cloten to the edge of caricature but provides likeable humor. Heather J. Strickland revels in being the evil queen, while Eric Morales gives Cymbeline quiet thoughtfulness rather than all-out rage. Chris Hinton and Tara Nicole Williams embody multiple characters, rounding out the cast.
There are minor flaws, including some actors’ tendencies to drop volume at the ends of sentences or in introspective passages, and sometimes the physical action covers key lines. But these shouldn’t keep audiences from enjoying this lively, fun production (just dress warmly).